'It will take time to get results,' Macron says after talks in Russia, Ukraine

French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin told him in their marathon talks a day earlier that Moscow would not further escalate the Ukraine crisis. Macron's remarks on a visit to Kyiv came as the Kremlin denied reports that he and Putin struck a deal on de-escalating the crisis.

Federal government urging all Canadians in Ukraine to leave as concerns about war with Russia escalate

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, right, meets French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday in Kyiv amid ongoing diplomatic efforts to defuse tensions with Russia. (Thibault Camus/The Associated Press)

French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin told him in their marathon talks a day earlier that Moscow would not further escalate the Ukraine crisis.

Macron's remarks on a visit to Kyiv came as the Kremlin denied reports that he and Putin struck a deal on de-escalating the crisis. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that "in the current situation, Moscow and Paris can't be reaching any deals."

Macron met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky amid mounting fears of a Russian invasion. At a news conference after meeting Zelensky, Macron said Putin told him during their more than five-hour session Monday that "he won't be initiating an escalation. I think it is important."

According to the French president, Putin also said there won't be any Russian "permanent (military) base" or "deployment" in Belarus, where Russia had sent a large number of troops for war games.

Peskov said withdrawing Russian troops from Belarus after the manoeuvres was the plan all along.

'Common view' on threats, challenges

Zelensky said he would welcome concrete steps from Putin for de-escalation, adding he didn't "trust words in general."

He called his talks with Macron "very fruitful."

"We have a common view with President Macron on threats and challenges to the security of Ukraine, of the whole of Europe, of the world in general," Zelensky said.

He said France was giving 1.2 billion euros (roughly $1.7 billion Cdn) in financial aid to Ukraine and helping restore infrastructure in the war-ravaged east of the country.

Why are tensions high?

WATCH | CBC's Briar Stewart got access to rebel-controlled Donetsk earlier this year. See what life was like as the threat of a Russian invasion escalated: 

Rare look inside rebel-controlled Donetsk

9 months ago
Duration 2:01
The CBC's Briar Stewart gets rare access to Donetsk, a city in Eastern Ukraine that was seized by Russian-backed separatists eight years ago.
  • Moscow has massed more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine's borders, but insists it has no plans to attack Ukraine.
  • NATO, U.S. and European leaders flatly reject the demands that they say challenge NATO's core principles, like shutting the door to Ukraine or other countries that might seek membership — but they have offered to talk about other Russian security concerns in Europe.
  • U.S. officials have painted the threat of an offensive on Ukraine as imminent — warnings Moscow has scoffed at, accusing Washington of fuelling the tensions around Ukraine.
  • Russia and Ukraine have been locked in a bitter conflict since 2014, when Ukraine's Kremlin-friendly president was ousted, Moscow annexed Crimea and then backed a separatist insurgency in the east of the country. The fighting between Russia-backed rebels and Ukrainian forces has killed over 14,000 people.
  • In 2015, France and Germany helped broker a peace deal, known as the Minsk agreements, that ended large-scale hostilities but failed to bring a political settlement of the conflict. The Kremlin has repeatedly accused Kyiv of sabotaging the deal, and Ukrainian officials in recent weeks said that implementing it would hurt Ukraine.

The Canadian government is warning against any travel to Ukraine and on Monday urged all Canadians currently in the country to leave as concerns about war with Russia escalate.

Last month, Global Affairs Canada warned only against non-essential travel to Ukraine, but stepped up its warning late Monday, suggesting growing concerns that a conflict is imminent.

"Avoid all travel to Ukraine due to ongoing Russian threats and the risk of armed conflict," the advisory said. "If you are in Ukraine, you should leave while commercial means are available."

U.S., Germany threaten Russia with economic consequences

Western leaders in recent weeks have engaged in multiple rounds of diplomacy talks to try to de-escalate the crisis, and more meetings are planned. High-level talks have taken place against the backdrop of military drills in Russia and Belarus. On Tuesday, Russia's Defence Ministry said six large warships were moving from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea for exercises and two long-range nuclear capable bombers flew another patrol over Belarus.

Macron said he had not expected Putin to make any "gestures" during their talks Monday, saying his objective was to "prevent an escalation and open new perspectives.... That objective is met."

WATCH | Former U.S. ambassador to NATO says Putin wants to control Ukraine to maintain his power: 

Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to control Ukraine: former ambassador

8 months ago
Duration 7:49
"What Putin is after is something that is not going to be achieved through diplomacy," said former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder about the current crisis. "He wants to control...Ukraine. He wants to make sure that it is no longer capable of acting as an independent country."

Macron said Putin "set a collective trap" by initiating the exchange of written documents with the U.S. Moscow submitted its demands to Washington in the form of draft agreements that were released to the public, and insisted on a written response, which was then leaked to the press.

"In the history of diplomacy, there was never a crisis that has been settled by exchanges of letters which are to be made public afterward," he said, adding that's why he decided to go to Moscow for direct talks.

Macron later flew to Berlin, where he briefed Polish President Andrzej Duda and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who said their stance was unified, with a joint goal "to prevent a war in Europe."

Putin said after the meeting that the U.S. and NATO ignored Moscow's demands, but signaled his readiness to continue talking. He also reiterated a warning that Ukraine membership in NATO could trigger a war between Russia and the alliance should Kyiv move to retake the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014.

WATCH | Macron met with Putin in Moscow before his trip to Ukraine. Here's a look at what happened: 

Putin, Macron agree on ‘further joint steps’ on Ukraine

8 months ago
Duration 2:08
Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron’s meeting about tensions with Ukraine led to an agreement on ‘further joint steps,’ but no promises toward a resolution.

U.S. President Joe Biden has said that any prospect of Ukraine entering NATO "in the near term is not very likely," but he and other NATO member nations and NATO itself refuse to rule out Ukraine's entry into the alliance at a future date.

Biden met Monday with Germany's leader, who also will travel to Kyiv and Moscow on Feb. 14-15. They threatened Russia with grave consequences if it invaded, and Biden vowed that the Nord Stream 2 Russia-to-Germany gas pipeline, which has been completed but is not yet operating, will be blocked. Such a move would hurt Russia economically but also cause energy supply problems for Germany.

A service member of the Ukrainian armed forces walks with plastic cups along a trench at combat positions near the line of separation from Russian-backed rebels outside the town of Svitlodarsk in the Donetsk region on Tuesday. (Maksin Levin/Reuters)

More than 100 U.S. military personnel arrived in Romania ahead of a deployment of about 1,000 NATO troops expected in the country in the coming days, Romania's Defense Minister Vasile Dincu said.

U.S. officials have said that about 1,000 alliance troops will be sent from Germany to Romania, a NATO member since 2004. Romania borders Ukraine to the north. About 1,700 U.S. soldiers from the 82nd Airborne are also going to Poland.

After meeting Macron, Putin said without elaboration that some of the French president's proposals could serve as a basis for a settlement of the separatist conflict, adding that they agreed to speak by phone after Macron's visit to Kyiv.

Peskov said such a call would take place "in the nearest future."

Macron said both Putin and Zelensky confirmed they were willing to implement the Minsk agreements — "the only path allowing to build peace ... and find a sustainable political solution."

Macron also said the presidential advisers of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine will meet Thursday in Berlin on the next steps. "It will take time to get results," he said.

Zelensky was mum on where Ukraine stands on implementing the Minsk agreements and whether he assured Macron that Kyiv is committed to do so, saying only that his country views Thursday's meeting "very positively" and hoped for a subsequent meeting by the four leaders.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, visiting the front line in eastern Ukraine's Donbas region, said she wanted "to get an impression of what it means that we still have war in the middle of Europe."

Germany has given Ukraine about 1.8 billion euros  (more than $2.6 billion Cnd) in aid since 2014, part of which is helping those displaced by fighting.

With files from The Canadian Press

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